NASHVILLE, Tennessee — A new University of Tennessee report says the number of uninsured people in Tennessee has hit a 10-year low.
Media cited the study in reporting that the number of people without health insurance shrunk about 25 percent in the first year of the health insurance marketplace, which was implemented under the federal Affordable Care Act. It was the biggest drop since the university began collecting data 20 years ago.
"It's a significant decline, but not necessarily unexpected given the implementation of the ACA this year," said Dr. LeAnn Luna, who co-authored the report.
There are still an estimated 472,008 people without insurance in the state, or about 7.2 percent of the population.
The university reported last year that an estimated 611,000 residents, or 9.6 percent, were without insurance.
TennCare, the state's Medicaid program, had its third highest enrollment despite application problems and enrollment delays.
"The eligibility and enrollment process worked smoothly for the vast majority of applicants — as evidenced by the near record-setting numbers of new enrollees," TennCare spokeswoman Kelly Gunderson said.
Health advocates said any improvement in the number of insured residents is "thanks to the new federal law."
Observers said the findings don't negate the need for Medicaid expansion in Tennessee either under the ACA or an alternative plan that Gov. Bill Haslam is trying to get approved through federal officials.
"To me it shows that's what happens when you give additional coverage, and I think if you can get an additional 400,000, especially if the federal government wants to pay for it, there's nothing wrong with that," said Craig Becker, president of the Tennessee Hospital Association.